This is a moment of shock and horror. A dreadful knife attack on a U.S. top official in the course of Korea-U.S. relations that began at 1882, and no other words can describe what has happened other than bizarre and reckless thoughtlessness. And that the target of the assault was an unarmed diplomat, no words can justify this. I wish for the U.S. ambassador the best and most speedy recovery, and extend my deepest condolences to him.
Above all, this has transpired in a very wrong place and at the wrong time. The luncheon was hosted by a pan-national organization that encompasses both the conservative and the liberal, and the newly appointed ambassador was invited to give a speech about peace in the Korean Peninsula and unification, the direction which the Republic of Korea-U.S. relations must take. But the assailant, without even listening to what the ambassador had to say first, kicked the table. What a shame.
The reason why we can no longer stand idly by during unexpected situations like this is because our society is finally showing the symptoms of extremism. Like a stagnant pool going bad, our society is no longer communicating with each other and making misjudgments about one another. Motivated by his principles, the suspect in the crime reckless and dangerously acted on his political “anti-war” beliefs and his beliefs about the “suspension of Republic of Korea-U.S. military training.” Now we must look back at ourselves and our society and see if dogmatic extremism is manifesting and creating loose cannons like this. Peace and coexistence cannot stand together with physical measures and means of hatred and antagonism.
Extremism expresses itself as chauvinism in terms of nationalism, zealous heresy in terms of religions, exclusive racism in terms of skin colors, and as a peculiar arbitrariness and self-righteousness in terms of politics. It thrives in a society where dogmatic ideologies are blocking the lines of communication. Therefore, a fledgling extremist is not born out of individual cases of mental illness, but rather reproduced out of a few opinions that reside within the majority of the public. By stimulating the public’s innate urges for violence and destruction, extremists stubbornly resist the relativity, diversity and the finitude of human history, obsessing over their unilateral views on the world. The fact that extremism is occurring and parasitizing modern society is stimulating the fear and aggressiveness of the lonely and the forsaken peripheries’ ordeal.
In order to overcome and deal with such extremism, we must eliminate the political evil that underlies the center of the situation, rather than physically ostracize anti-social behaviors and social evils. The social cascade which imported and spread the warped and mutated version of the minority view must be explained and analyzed.
How did the anti-Americanism and anti-war movement in Korea fall so low and to such destructive terrorism? Korean extremism has come to deny status quo diplomacy based purely on its delusion and obstinacy, and by ignoring the uniqueness of the South-North relationship in favor of unilateralism. It has fallen to subjectivism incapable of understanding the basic notion of quid pro quo. Are we to stand complacent while extremism shuts down the moderate and peaceful, all the while paving the way for a closed-off and inflexible society?
If we are to heal these extremists, we require calm and social movements that seek to restore the checks and balances. If some people take advantage of the situation and return our society to the horrid days of McCarthyism, and what a backward movement that would be, it would only pour oil onto the fires of extremism.
Now the Republic of Korea-U.S. relationship faces a new challenge. Using this incident of extremism — not seen since the days of independence — as the point of inflection, we need to rise up to the next level in our relationship. Fortunately, Ambassador Mark Lippert, who is hospitalized, offered: “We go together”* on his Twitter message board. This simple sentence seems to be appealing to the need for a more solid and healthier Republic of Korea-U.S. relationship. If we are to deal with the senseless violence in our society, we must dismantle the consumptive forces that drive partisan politics and its strife. Now we must accept the difference with others and embrace diversity. Let us come to accept the desperateness of social integration. This might be the only way of rooting out extremism from our society before it fully germinates.
*Translator’s Note: It can also be translated into “Let’s go together.”
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